Pulse: 60-Second Critic: March 2007

Greyhound Bus Station
By Jessicca Pressler

The Greyhound station at 10th and Filbert has long resembled the set of Children of Men: Outside, shifty-eyed cabdrivers hover among broken bottles and condom wrappers; inside, a sickly green light illuminates moaning women and wild-eyed men. You wait endlessly to purchase a ticket from the lone, sluggish sales rep. Until recently, that is. Just before Christmas, Greyhound stepped in and gave the place a face-lift. The lighting is bright, the floors are clean, and the weird old TVs attached to the arms of the chairs — which made them impossible to sit in — are gone, replaced by a flat-screen and a set of cheery blue benches. The automated ticket machines actually work, and there’s an express counter for travelers going to New York, and even — gasp — a smiling customer service representative who greets you at the door. But they still need to do something about those cabdrivers. B+

Watch Me Burn
Chris Bruni
By Greg Shutlack
This debut album from West Chester’s Chris Bruni is like the first cup of coffee on a cold morning: warm, soothing and gratifying. Bruni’s primary instrument is his voice, a cross between Dave Matthews and John Mayer, and that’s the power behind this record. His lyrics, which touch on life’s humbling lessons—namely, love and loss—are clear and sincere. The recording captures his clean, simplistic coffeehouse sound (he was discovered at an open-mike in Wilmington) and is brimming with string-section-filled emotion—maybe too much at times, as the sound teeters close to the label of “sentimental.” Still, the title track is sweetly infectious, as is Bruni’s cover of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” A-

Daddy’s Girl
By Lisa Scottoline (HarperCollins; $25.95)
I had no idea we were anywhere near Philly International until the plane jerked onto the runway and I looked up to see that, indeed, we were on the ground. My nose was buried in Scottoline’s newest page-turner. In turbulence, even. Her best-selling formula is at work for the 14th time as Natalie “Nat” Greco, a Penn law prof, finds herself on the wrong side of the deposition room, with only her own detective work to exonerate her. What’s juicy? A prison riot, a dying man’s mysterious last words, a love affair with a beefy colleague. What’s cool? Scottoline’s customary nods to the Philly area — the Brandywine River Museum, Andre Iguodala, Longwood Gardens, the Dechert law firm (where Scottoline once worked). Some secondary characters are cartoonish, making for contrived dialogue. Still, Nancy Drew for grown-ups is good enough for me. B

Get Down
By Asali Solomon (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; $21)
As a mid-20s Caucasian woman from the ’burbs, I wouldn’t seem to be the target audience for these 10 short stories mostly based in Philly in the 1980s. Solomon — who grew up in West Philly — draws her characters through adolescence, referencing El stops, Penn parties, Power 99 FM and Tower Records along the way. In “Twelve Takes Thea,” 12-year-old Thea has trouble making friends at her mostly white school — especially when her family expects her to bond with the other girls of color. In “Party on Voorhees!,” Sarah, Vetta and Grace bounce from house to house, trying to find a party that suits them. The collection may seem niche, but Solomon, an Iowa Writers’ Workshop grad, universalizes her characters and topics. And trying to feel comfortable in your own skin is something we can all relate to. B